Tenant screening uncovered DUI's, jail time etc

62 Replies

Hi All,

Looking for a sanity check here with a potential tenant.

He called on a property, loved it with 2 minutes of walking through it (almost no one loves this property as it has a strange floor plan) and emailed his rental app within a hour. Called me a few hours later looking for a quick approval and said he had a check to drop off. I pushed him back so that we could do a proper screening.

The initial screening (Google) turned up that he was arrested for several DUI's. After a little digging we were also able to find out that he did several 30 - 90 days stints in jail for charges related to these DUI's including violating probation and driving with a suspended license.

I'm inclined to turn him down for the reasons above plus he is self employed 45 minutes from here and has no drivers license to legally get to work.

What would you do?

Rick

Did you charge a fee with the application he filled out immediately? I assume he is all by himself? I had a similar issue with a tenant I had, that had to do time, however, he was released for work. Thank god he had a girlfriend at the time who was temporarily dropping off his rent check, but in the problem you relay, it sounds like you should just keep looking. I mean if he is doing jail time for 30/60 days at a time, how does he pay rent and/or work if he is in jail? People like that seem to continue to have issues. Be patient, you will find someone that fits your criteria that you won't have to stress as much about.

At first I thought 'Well, it's just DUI's and that doesn't necessarily mean he is a bad tenant', but you have a valid point with his job being far away.

If he has had multiple DUI's, it's just a matter of time until he will be incarcerated again and since his previous stays were so long (30-90 days) I would say, deny him.

His next stay could be an entire year. Also, DUI's are very, very costly so this is doomed to fail. My guess is he didn't love the apartment as much as he is probably desperate to find a place that won't do a background check, hence why he was rushing you

That would be a major pass. If the whole tenant pool for the area is like that I would sell and invest elsewhere but that's just me.

I don't want all the drama for the perception of squeezing out a few extra percent annually on the return.

Often the extra return isn't there but the massive headache and losses sure are.

Mulitple dui's. Been to jail many times, which means he doesn't learn and now driving with no license. Still hasn't. He will get locked up again. Not if, but when. Then you'll have to deal with him not paying rent for obvious reasons and you'll have a house full of his junk to do something with when he does. Which if you dispose of, he'll get angry, if you store, you'll pay for. I'd say hell no.

45 minutes away?

No one wants to commute 45 minutes each way to work.

Unless he has some compelling reason (girlfriend) to be in the area.

Sounds like he's been rejected from multiple apartments near his work.

I like giving people second chances if they got in trouble years ago, but multiple DUIs.... doesn't sound like he's learned... yet.

Wait, self-employed plus DUIs? Um, no. Doesn't sound like he can get an apartment or a job elsewhere. I would not approve him.

There's a reason he loves it when non one else does and is so anxious to get a rental agreement. He's having a hard time finding anyone else to rent to him. I see red flags all over the place.

I'm self employed, but self employed tenants are not very desirable for me as they're not collectible. I also don't rent to lawyers, bail bodsmen, strippers, hookers, hairdressers, and landscapers.

I would pass on this guy.

Originally posted by Rick B.:
...
Looking for a sanity check here with a potential tenant.
...

If you rent to this person, you will be needing the sanity check AFTERWARD! You seem to have your senses about you now ...

Originally posted by Rick B.:
...
He called on a property, loved it with 2 minutes of walking through it (almost no one loves this property as it has a strange floor plan) and emailed his rental app within a hour. Called me a few hours later looking for a quick approval and said he had a check to drop off. I pushed him back so that we could do a proper screening.
...

Sounds like you are a bit desperate here on this one property; seems we all have that one property that is tough to rent to the type of quality tenant you really want. You have to ask the prospects what they like and don't like so you understand what your challenges are; you might have to drop asking rent to compensate for whatever makes it less desirable.

Originally posted by Rick B.:
...
The initial screening (Google) turned up that he was arrested for several DUI's. After a little digging we were also able to find out that he did several 30 - 90 days stints in jail for charges related to these DUI's including violating probation and driving with a suspended license.

I'm inclined to turn him down for the reasons above plus he is self employed 45 minutes from here and has no drivers license to legally get to work.

What would you do?
...

Seems you already know the answer, and it sure seems like everybody else has already concurred with that answer, so I'll not bother throwing in my $0.02 worth - but I agree :)

I normally don't concern myself with driving record unless their employment situation requires driving - cab driver, truck driver, limo driver, mail delivery, cleaning service, contractor - those types of jobs require driving. Bad driving record means they could lose their employment, and that means it gets tough to pay rent, and that means bad news for a landlord.

I'm actually not desperate at all. I could've wrote that better as the fact that he liked the unit when most people don't was in fact a big red flag for me which caused me to do a deeper dive on the background check.

I guess my real concern is how to reject him on the basis of his public arrest record. I've rejected plenty of other potential tenants for income issues or bad references but it isn't exactly the case here.

Originally posted by Rob K:
I'm self employed, but self employed tenants are not very desirable for me as they're not collectible. I also don't rent to lawyers, bail bodsmen, strippers, hookers, hairdressers, and landscapers.

I would pass on this guy.

My maintenance guy always wants me to rent to the strippers and hookers so he can go visit them. I've always refused. I had one tenant that was originally a server at a restaurant but I guess she got into the pills and became a stripper (and probably a hooker) and turned into a big fat problem when she went to prison. Definitely don't rent to strippers/hookers.

Anyway back to the OP. One DUI I would say no big deal, multiple DUIs where you end up in jail it sounds like the guy has an issue so it's an easy pass for me.

Here is text from a rejection letter I sent for an applicant whose case still had not gone to trial; you can use similar language. Be sure that your written rental criteria / policies list that certain types of criminal records are cause for rejection. I have sent similar letters for convictions in the past (several for felony convictions for possession with intent to distribute substances).

Originally posted by Sample Rejection Letter:

Dear _________:

Thank you for your recent application to rent the house located at _________________. Regretfully, your application for the rental home is denied. The denial of your application was based upon one or more of the following reasons:
( ) Information contained in a consumer credit report obtained from: (See list below)

( ) A consumer credit report with information insufficient to our needs was obtained from: (See list below)

( XX ) Information was received from a source other than a consumer-reporting agency. Under Section 615(b) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act you have a right to make a written request to us within 60 days of receiving this letter for a disclosure of the nature of this information.

( XX ) Other (Explanation): Your application was denied based upon an unadjudicated criminal matter, and specifically case number ________ from the ______ Magisterial District that has not yet been adjudicated for a number of charges as shown on the attached document.

In evaluating your application, the following marked consumer-reporting agencies provided information that in whole or part influenced this decision. These consumer-reporting agencies did not make the decision to deny your application and cannot explain the specific reasons for the denial.

CREDIT HISTORY:
( ) Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, 2 Baldwin Place, Chester, PA 19022 (800) 888-4213
( ) Experian (TRW), P.O. Box 949, Allen, TX 75002 (800) 682-7654
( ) CBI / Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-2041 (800) 685-1111

You have certain rights under federal law with respect to your credit report. Within 60 days of receiving this denial, you have the right to receive a free copy of your consumer report from any of the consumer-reporting agencies marked above. That disclosure can be made orally, in writing, or electronically.

You have a right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in your consumer report, as furnished by the consumer-reporting agencies checked off above. If you believe your file contains errors, is inaccurate or incomplete, call the consumer-reporting agency at their toll-free number listed, or write to them at the address listed.

You may have additional rights under the credit reporting or consumer protection laws of your state. Contact your state or local consumer protection agency or a state Attorney General's office.

Sincerely,

You'll notice that none of the credit agencies had anything to do with supplying the info used in the rejection, so none of them were checked off in this situation.

BTW - I short-circuited any 615(b) requests there by actually sending along the state police / magistrate arrest report summary. That way I did not have any reason to hear from them again, and I did not hear back from them. And their employer used TheWorkNumber.com for employment verification screening as I recall, so I was happy to have good reason to reject without having to pay like $20 for that employment verification.

Rob K I understand the lawyers, strippers, and hookers but why the bail bondsmen, hair dressers, and landscapers. I can see the first two if you don't want their clientele coming by or are too needy of tenants but don't understand the landscapers at all. I've never had problems with any tradesmen in my units i.e. plumbers, floor layers, electricians because they are handy in general and don't need me to change air filters and lightbulbs (not that I do that for anyone but at least I don't get requests from those tenants). Just curious on your logic. Thanks in advance.

Originally posted by Rob K:
I also don't rent to lawyers, bail bodsmen, strippers, hookers, hairdressers, and landscapers.

I would pass on this guy.

So why not the landscapers? The rest I get lawsuit, lawyer friends, "shows" at the house, brothel, home business and....

Sorry if I was vague. The reasons I've found come to these conclusions about certain occupations over the years are as follows:

Self employed - Income fluctuates and almost impossible to collect from after they move. I've found that most self employed people don't claim very much on their taxes, so they screen themselves out. Some will work out fine and I will rent to them if they check out ok. Most do not.

Lawyers - My cousin is a lawyer. We all know lawyers who are fine people. The problem is that they are indoctrinated to solve their problems in the court room. If any little issue comes up between you and your tenant, you could end up in court. If that happens, you are going to lose. It's like bringing a knife to a gunfight. I have no interest in getting into any type of disagreement with a lawyer.

Bail bondsmen - I've met a few. They are in a very sketchy business dealing with criminals on a daily basis. The stories I've heard from them are nothing short of fascinating, but I basically want nothing to do with them. Even in the movie Jackie Brown, Samuel Jackson says, "Bail bondsmen are as crooked as a barrel of snakes". I've found that to be true. If any problems come up between you and them, they know people who can make your life miserable. I prefer to avoid them.

Strippers/hookers - I think this one is obvious, but I have had two for tenants. One was actually that fairy tale you hear about the girl who dances to pay for college. She was a fine tenant, but had some questionable people hanging out at the house. The other was a coked out skank who made mad cash and was always broke. She would pay her rent in $20's and $1's. It was disgusting. Her boyfriend was cool, but she was a horrible person.

Hairdressers - I know I will take some heat for this, but in general, I have found that they are just a small step above strippers/hookers. I don't know if all of the daily gossip turns them into sociopathic liars, or if those types of people are just drawn to the business. I've found that they spend so much money trying to fight time and gravity that rent becomes priority #2. Looking hot is priority #1, even if they are way past their prime.

Landscapers - I suppose this would vary by region and they could be fine tenants in some parts. I see that @Matt Devincenzo and Peter Moser are in California and Texas. Landscaping is year round in those states. Where I'm at, there are four seasons. (Usually) Landscapers can make a lot of money in the summer. When fall hits, it slows to nothing. Then in winter, they sit around waiting for it to snow. It doesn't always happen. I should have said in my earlier post that it's because of the seasonal nature in my area. A landscaper in California or Texas would probably be fine for a tenant.

Also, many landlords will not rent to cops. They fear that the law could be used against them if things go bad. I have a cop for a tenant and he's great. There are dirty cops out there, but I've found that most are fine. They are usually very logical people and don't deal with all the mealy mouthed double speak that annoys me.

I hope this helps. Also, If your mom/sister/wife is a hairdresser, just ignore my comments. It doesn't apply to all of them and I know there are hairdressers who are fine people. They can just rent from someone other than me.

@Rick B. If I don't like a potential tenant. I may not ever call them back. Or I tell them they didn't qualify or I like I told one lady " I just don't like you". I verbalise it all, I don't want to give them something they can use against me in court. Our laws are very precise about lots of things. Not calling someone back has yet to be illegal.

@Mike Osterman If you deny an applicant based on their credit report, you are required to send them a denial letter. If you deny them for another reason, it's a good idea to send them a letter in writing.

I read the book Landlording on Autopilot. The author doesn't deny anyone. If they don't meet his criteria, he tells them what he needs and sends them on a fools errand. For example, if an eviction shows up, he tells them he will put their application on hold until they straighten out the eviction with the court. Not the way I do things, but it works for him.

On the landscapers it's the same way in Georgia as well.

The grass grows here maybe 4 months out of the year during spring/summer.

The rest of the year it does nothing. The grass companies try to sell you on crap contracts where they come out and rake leaves and blow leaves etc. during fall and winter to try and keep the money coming in.

Most people just tell them to cut the three months and that's it and we will see you next year. Now if the landscaper works for a national company handling commercial type properties those contracts tend to go year round. The problem is I have seen some landscapers get taxed on checks and not like it and then they quit and go on their own and are back to the seasonal problem again.

The landscapers always want to try to maximize that 3 or 4 months of cutting by coming back every 10 days to mow yards on contracts. This way they extract about 120 a month per yard . I get my guy to mow the grass every 2 weeks for 30 bucks a pop on my house.

Well,

It really can be tricky if you are a real estate professional or if it is a larger apartment community as Federal fair housing law protects recovering alcoholics.

However, this really doesn't matter if it is a SFH as they are exempt from this as I understand it.

I am kind of on the soft side so I might give him a chance if he seemed like a good guy AND the crimes were not recent. In the end though what I would do is look at the money, in the end I think that's what counts right?

Lots of other great advice on this topic here! Good luck!

Actually an easy call. Repeat offenders have a problem with rules and the authorities that enforce them. You have rules that you will need to enforce. Why rent to somebody with this sort of problem? Also, the fact that he has the rent money ready to go should be a huge red flag.

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